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The Best Gift We Can Give: Praying For Your Teens

Her eyes were puffy, and her cheeks flushed. The bottom of her lip was trembling as the fake smile plastered across her face cracked. Her answers to my questions were one worded. My student had clearly been crying. Seeing that something was wrong, I told her she was more than welcome to eat in my classroom while I went to the teacher’s lounge. When I came back a little while later, she was gone, but there was a note scrawled on a sticky note on my desk: “Thanks for letting me hide in here. I just wanted to be alone for a little bit.”

Upon seeing the note, the words of Padre Pio came to mind: “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” With a few minutes left in the lunch period, I walked to the chapel, knelt in front of the Tabernacle, and lifted my student up in prayer. It was the best thing I could do for her. It was the only thing I could do for her at that moment. The best work I could do was on my knees in front of Jesus, bringing to Him all her hurt, pain, and confusion, asking Him to be all He is in His perfection, goodness, and wisdom.

When she first walked into my classroom, my immediate ministry instinct was to counsel her in some way. I wanted to ask her what was wrong and help her fix the problem right away. I wanted to resolve the issue so her smile would return. Instead, she just needed a few minutes on her own, and the best thing I could do was give her some quiet solitude. We could always talk later. Right now, she just needed to be by herself to calm down, regroup, and continue with her day.

Seeing her sad and hurt helped me realize something about all my students. They are far more than just names on a class roster. They are not just warm bodies occupying desks day in and day out. She was a teen in pain, hurt by some unknown thing. Frozen in her confusion, exhaustion, and sadness, she was just a young girl who couldn’t immediately process her emotions. She didn’t come to my classroom to be interrogated. She wasn’t looking to be counseled, nor did she want to talk about what was wrong immediately. She was upset and just needed to hit the reset button on her day, and the best thing I could do for her was pray and ask God to wrap her in His love. The best ministry I could do was follow the advice of Padre Pio: pray for her, hope in the Lord’s goodness, and not worry about solving her problems right away.

In day to day ministry, it is remarkably easy to become swept up by the immediate problems we, or our teens, face. We look for what can be solved, fixed, corrected, and taken care of right away. The task filled to-do list can taunt us. The lessons we have to plan, programs to organize, and things to do begin to pile up, and it becomes incredibly easy to relegate our teens to just place on the checklist. Their very real, personal, human struggle become just some other issue to solve and take care of, no different than any other task.

This attitude is dangerous! It can dehumanize our teens. It can turn the young people with whom we are blessed to work with into mere projects to complete or problems to fix. We can so easily forget that they are individuals who hurt and feel joy, who struggle and succeed every day. I have found the best way to avoid this trap and see my teens as more than just names to memorize, and problems to solve is to pray for them, bringing them to the Lord, each and every day. Here are a few “best practices” in praying for your teens:

Be Specific

I keep a small brown notebook in my backpack. It’s unmarked and looks insignificant and boring. Inside is a list of prayer intentions from people in all areas of my life. The longest “section” is the one with intentions for my students, both the ones they’ve told me and the things I’ve noticed simply by knowing them. While all time spent in prayer is fruitful, I find that when list particular intentions, the time I spend in prayer is especially valuable. I’m intentional with the intentions. Knowing the hard and joyful moments in a teen’s life, and knowing what I can pray for on their behalf, helps me to purposefully think of them and remember they are more than a number. The pages filled with intentions are a reminder of how significantly important it is to go to the Lord and request His action.

Pray For Them By Name

In being specific with my prayer, I also find it fruitful to pray for my teens by name. Sometimes, instead of going through a list of intentions, I may just go down a list or roster of my teens and lift them up individually. I’ll spend a few minutes with each name and pray a simple prayer over each of them. It’s usually something simple: “Lord, give Sarah strength and fortitude this week” or “Blessing John with peace of heart during this busy time.” Praying for my students by name helps me picture their face, which makes my prayer more personal and intimate. These teens are sons and daughters of proud parents. They are friends, athletes, and musicians with hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns. Praying for them by name helps make my students more real and tangible and helps me to think of them in a whole new way.

Befriend the Saints

I find the Communion of Saints to be one of the most beautiful aspects of our Church, and thinking of saints’ lives, stories, and moments of success and struggle is both inspiring and challenging. Once a month, I’ll choose a different saint and specifically ask for their intercession for my teens. In October, I usually read the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux and ask her to pray for my students to seek and find small ways to love their families and friends. In January, I almost always turn to St. Thomas Aquinas and ask him to pray for my students to have a renewed vigor for the second semester of the school year. In May, I go to St. Joseph of Cupertino, asking him to intercede for my students as they prepare for and take their final exams. By turning to the saints, I feel like I’m giving my students even more spiritual backup with these heavenly cheerleaders looking out for them. After all, it’s my hope that they will one day be saints themselves, so what could be better than lifting them up to these holy men and women now?

Let Them Know

It’s important for your teens to know you are praying for them. This shouldn’t be a secret endeavor. I find when I’ve shared that I’ve been praying for them, my students are grateful, touched, and unafraid to ask for more prayers in the future. On multiple occasions, I’ve received an email, text, or comment from a student asking for prayers concerning family situations, an upcoming test, or struggles with friends. Even if they never say anything to you about it, I think it’s valuable for teens to know you bring them to the Lord in prayer and are focused on their spiritual well-being.

One of the best gifts you can give to another person is a well-meaning, intentional, personal prayer offered to the Lord on behalf of another. The teens we work with probably need this gift more than any other group of people we know, and it will benefit them more than anything else we could give.

 

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About the Author

Katie Prejean McGrady

I'm an avid reader, horrible dancer, teacher of freshmen, frequent flyer, author of a book, occasional fiddle player, and chips & salsa aficionado. I think my husband is good looking and my dog is adorable. I am loved more than I can fully grasp and grateful for the abundant gifts I've been given by the Lord. For memes, gifs of the clever variety, and pictures of what I'm watching on Netflix, follow me at @katieprejean on Twitter and @katieprejeanmcgrady on Instagram.